When I was in high school, I learned to use a day planner. If I remember correctly, my mom got me a nice Day Runner set up and taught me how to use it. Organization (of time, space, or other) has never come naturally to me, so I have had to depend on tools to help me keep track of everything. My planner was the tool that helped me keep my very busy academic, extracurricular, and social lives in order, all in one place. In college, it became even more important. My friends referred to my planner as my "brain" and knew I couldn't go anywhere without it. It was my schedule, assignment tracker, journal... everything.
As an adult, I fell out of the habit of using a planner. I no longer had assignments to turn in, and life became more routine with work and life. I was home more, so I started using a magnetic calendar on the fridge, just like my mom did. After years of frustration with that system I started looking for others. I tried wall calendars, Google calendar, Cozi, blank planners, printed planners, free printables, purchased printables, custom planners... I couldn't find anything that worked well for me. So a few years ago I decided to design my own planner and I LOVE it!
As it turns out, I need a planner as much now as I did in high school and college. Between school functions, my daughter's activities, doctor appointments, social engagements, family trips, and a host of other things, I need to keep track of everything in a reliable way. And, I'm a paper person. So here's how my planner works for me:
I use a disc bound system for my planner. I love the flexibility it offers, and I love being able to change covers and discs on a whim. These discs (gold with heart cut outs) I got at Hobby Lobby this summer in the scrapbooking section. Other discs I have used I've gotten at Staples through the Martha Stewart line or the Arc line at Staples. I have several sizes in several colors, but I tend to need the largest discs for my planner, but use smaller ones for other projects.
I make the covers for the planner myself and have quite a stash from a couple years ago when I was making custom planners for other people. This cover was made from some placemats from Ikea, if I remember correctly. The red makes me happy. :)
Inside the cover of my planner I have a bad habit of shoving papers I need to look at but haven't gotten to yet. I also keep a binder pocket with the highlighters and pens I use on my weekly calendar.
My monthly calendar looks something like this. Each month is tabbed (I'll show you what the tabs look like in a minute.) and is where I record appointments, events, etc. as they are scheduled. I tend to write with erasable pen (I love Frixion pens!) on the monthly calendar in case things change. If there's a multi-day event (like my daughter's summer camps) I use washi tape. I keep a bookmark in this month so it's easy to find, and I keep a 4x6 journal card in each month so I can jot down memorable events as we go. These go in the scrapbook at the end of the year so we have a good idea of what happened in life! If I get around to scrapbooking pictures, great, but if not at least I have some record of things!
Between the monthly pages I have weekly plan sheets. I learned to use these in Mary Kay and have found them to be an excellent tool for me! Each Sunday evening I sit down and plan my week. I look at my husband's calendar online to see if there are any important things I should be aware of. I look at my monthly calendar, and I look at any other schedules that might impact my week.
At the top of each day column I have a blank space for my daily to-do list. These are items that need to be done that day, but don't necessarily have a specific time associated with them. (I have a different system for my running to-do list, but I'll have to share that some other time.)
At the bottom of each day column I have a half-hourly schedule where I put down specific things that are scheduled throughout the day. Right now it's summer, so I don't have a whole lot going on, but during the school year this keeps me from double booking myself.
On the side of the page I have a place for notes so I can jot things down for next week if needed.
Each monthly tab has a pocket on the back with a quote on it. The tabs are laminated so I can write on them with a dry erase, wet erase, or Sharpie marker if needed. In September I have to have some lab work done, so I have my paperwork in the September pocket, ready to go. At the beginning of each calendar month I have a page for birthdays and anniversaries. Honestly, I don't use this a whole lot, but sometimes it is nice to have at a glance. (I don't use this, because I have finally found a solution that works for me to keep up with birthday and anniversary cards! I guess I'll have to share more on that later, too.)
After the calendar section of my planner I have a household section. Like the months, this includes a laminated tab, with a pocket on the back.
I put coupons in the pocket, because I can never think far enough ahead to remember to bring coupons with me, and these are for the kinds of places / items I come across at random. It's hard to remember to bring coupons if you're not actually planning on going to those places.
I also keep all my coffee cards, punch cards, store cards, membership cards, etc, in this section of my notebook. I have three pages of these card holders, so I always have them if I need them. I don't use them frequently, so I don't carry them in my wallet.
After the household section, I have a section for notes. I really just have paper in this section, but I take sermon notes, jot down notes at the doctor's office, write random thoughts, etc, and then later scan them into Evernote as I work to #TameThePaperDragon. Then I throw the paper note away. :)
I have a laminated envelope I keep in the back of my planner. Originally I thought I would use it for cash, a la Dave Ramsey. As it turns out, I don't really use cash. And when I do, it's in my wallet. And we don't do Dave Ramsey and don't have any debt, so I don't see us going that route in the future. So... I put my checkbook in that pocket. I don't need to write checks very often, but when I do it's nice to have my checkbook accessible (instead of lost in the bottom of my giant purse somewhere).
I also have a pocket in the back of my planner where I can put paperwork I'm in the middle of filling out, or papers I need to read over. This is a nicer solution than stuffing the papers inside the cover.
Speaking of my giant purse, one of my requirements for a planner is that it fit in my purse. Now, my purse is big. BUT it is not so big that an 8.5x11 planner will fit in it. This planner fits right in the center section of my purse organizer (which actually works for me!) along with whatever book I'm currently reading and my iPad (not shown).
So... that's my planner. I call it the Metamorphosis Life Planner, because it helps me plan my life and it changes as I need it to. Necessity is the mother of invention.